The Other Brother

I have three brothers. I share a mother with two of them and a father with the other.

To be fair, I share much more than a mother with Jay and Creed. We were raised together. We share a childhood, a family history, and memories that go far beyond genetics and blood relations.

And yet, it’s only Creed – the baby – that you’ve heard much about here. In fact, I can only recall one small mention of our other brother here. And even then, I didn’t elaborate much.

It hurts my heart that Jay’s story is not here.

It hurts me more that our story – his and mine – is not here, or anywhere, really.

Jay was my first sibling from either parent. When he came into the world six years after me, I went from an only child, shuffling back and forth between two parents, to the big sister in a family. He almost died that day, and I may not have ever known what it felt like to be part of something that gave you roots no matter where you roamed.

I’d like to tell you stories of him coming home from the hospital, small and precious as I imagine all newborns certainly are. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to bring that picture to mind.

I remember him as a toddler, with his thick curly hair and strong pointy chin, like mine. I remember him dancing around in his Bears’ jersey in front of the football game on TV. I remember him learning to ride his bike, absolutely terrified of my mom letting go of the seat – in much the same way my own son resisted his independence on two wheels. I remember when he got his feelings hurt in kindergarten because some big kid was bullying him, and how he would cling to the teacher’s side during recess. I remember him trailing along beside my best friend and I as he followed us home from school every day.

His eyes danced back then and in his toothy grin you could see glimpses of his soft heart.

And in his eyes you could also see the adoration he held for a man I would grow to hate, his father.

We do not share a father, although there was a time when we both called the same man “Dad”. The more vile my memories of that man grow, the more doting he appeared to become towards his first born son.

I remember Jay being very innocent, oblivious to the cruelty his father was capable of. As he got older, I could see the guilt line my brother’s face as he tried to reconcile the love he had for a man he heard such horrible stories about.

Maybe that’s where it comes from – the distance between us.

It’s hard to say, really, because it’s been there for so long. While Creed and I have always shared a remarkable closeness, there has been a wall between Jay and I for as long as I can remember. Neither of us can name it, although he jokes about Creed being my “favorite”.

“I love you Britter,” he’ll tell me. And when I smile and put my arm around him and assure him that “I love you too honey,” I think we both feel that there’s something missing in the exchange.

My history with him is blurred and bittersweet.

The memories of sitting beside a wrestling mat on Saturday mornings in high school gyms, pounding and screaming and praying for his safety, are mixed with the arguments and pain as I raged against his choices and he recoiled from my judgment. Over the years, it has been hard to ignore the worry and disappointment in my eyes as I watch him struggle through self destructive patterns and he avoids looking at me while he reassures me that everything will be fine from now on.

We’ve been stuck in this pattern for so long, he and I, trying to pretend that the distance isn’t there.

I love him, more than he knows. My worry and fear comes from that love. And I know he loves me too. No doubt his evasiveness and empty reassurances comes from his own love, at least in part. We look past the distance and play act at being as close as we wish we were, as if admitting we’re not would be a betrayal of the love we’re harboring for one another.

But it remains awkward and bumbling.

I long to explain to him how much I hope for his happiness. I fantasize about opening myself up fully to that hope again, abandoning my new found need to protect myself from disappointment. I envision the wall between us crumbling and the floodgates opening until the old facades have been washed away and we can finally be family. Really, truly, family – the way we each have known it with other people.

But for now, I just wait. I watch his life unfold and wait for an opening some day, when neither one of us will have a need for defenses and casual small talk.

Happy Birthday little brother. I love you. So, so very much.

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  1. avitable says:

    That’s a very nice post. It’s even more impressive that you wrote it while so badly hungover, too!

  2. Krystle says:

    Great post Britt. I can sense the love you have for your brother… and it’s sweet. You’re just patiently waiting. Those doors will open soon.

  3. flutter says:

    this is incredibly sweet

    flutter’s last blog post..Therapy notes: Maybe you should quit

  4. I loved this post. I have 2 brothers. One I grew up idolizing, but we weren’t ever THAT close. He is 7 years older than me and so was always too busy to deal with a li’l kid. And God knows he caused me more heartache than I thought I could bear, growing up. Now, however, he has become the beautiful person we all knew he could be, and has literally saved me more times than I can count. He is my safe place, my calm, and the most fun that you can pack into one little 5’9 inch body.

    Miss Ann Thrope’s last blog post..Your One-Stop Hobbie Shop…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written. I hope he reads this and understands. I have a sister that I could say the same things about (and vice versa). For a long time I thought she hated me. Maybe she’s just waiting for the day when we won’t need our defenses.

  6. Cap says:

    Beautifully written. I hope that Jay reads it and understands. I have a sister I could write the same things about (and vice versa). For a long time I thought she hated me. Maybe she’s just waiting for a time when we don’t have to have defenses with each other.

  7. kapgar says:

    Wow. That’s a tough way to grow up and continue as adults. But my family is pretty familiar with it, too, as my mom and her brother have one of those exceptionally awkward relationships. Nobody really knows why they’re not close, even them, but they’re not. They try for the sake of family as they are the only sibs in that family and my dad has no one left on his side and this is my only uncle (I have no cousins), but it’s always strained and you can tell they’re uncomfortable.

    Bears jersey? Is that a biproduct of your Iowa days or did you actually live in Illinois at some point, too?

    kapgar’s last blog post..Tell me what’s on your mind…

  8. Kristin says:

    What a great post Britt! I am sure that things will happen for the two of you down the road.

    Happy Birthday Jay!

  9. ADW says:

    So sweet. I hope that one day the two of you can be what you hope for. I love that you haven’t given up in that relationship.

    ADW’s last blog post..Random Information Day

  10. debkitty says:

    It is beautifully written. But I am confused. I have found you to be very much not a judgemental person here, opinionated yes, but not judgemental. Why would you be judgemental with him? Do you hold him to a higher standard because he is family? Was it immaturity that caused you to be judgemental or was it just something so disappointing you couldn’t help but judge?

    I envy the closeness you have with Creed, my brother and I are much more like you and Jay, except I say I love you and he stands back away.

    So I am curious.

    debkitty’s last blog post..Those People

  11. B says:

    What a nice post!

    B’s last blog post..*Runs Around In Circles*

  12. Miss Britt says:

    avitable: and in parts. I finished it last night when I was half asleep. LOL

    Krystle: I’m not always patient, to be honest.

    flutter: really? Thank you.

    Miss Ann Thrope: *waves* Hi! I think the tormenting and stuff is a natural part of the younger years.

    Cap: oh man, it hurts to read “I thought she hated me”. I know a few people in that same boat.

    kapgar: we lived in Chicago when I was a kid – that’s where my mom is from, kind of.

    I don’t think we try for the sake of the family. I think we do it for each other, because family is important to both of us. That just means different things to each of us.

    Kristin: thanks babe

    ADW: giving up is definitely not an option.

    debkitty: oh boy have I been judgmental in the past. I’m less so now, the older I get and the more mistakes of my own I make. My mom took the worst of it – but pretty much everyone knew if I didn’t “approve”.

    I wrote about it here.

    I think when it comes to Jay, a lot of it is because I have high expectations for him. He’s brilliant and gorgeous and charming and could literally do anything he wanted.

    B: Thank you.

  13. Karl says:

    Beautiful post, Britt. I can relate. My brother and I aren’t very close at all. I wish we were. Admittedly, some of that is my fault. Stupid depression gets in the way of everything sometimes.

    Karl’s last blog post..Hello, Dave

  14. Finn says:

    Having just spent yesterday at a funeral I feel as if I can say this: You have to make the opening. You can’t wait. You may not have time.

    I know it’s easier said than done, but anything worth having involves some risk. I hope you both find the strength to open yourselves to each other and heal the past. :heartbeat:

    Finn’s last blog post..Falling Into The Pit

  15. tori says:

    siblings… such a hard thing to explain… how can people that share so much end up so different? Happy Birthday Jay, great post Brit!

  16. DutchBitch says:

    Wow, that was a BEAUTIFUL post, Britt… :heartbeat:

    DutchBitch’s last blog post..Alcohol Abuse – DutchBitch Style

  17. That is a very touching post. Sometimes people are closer to one sibling than another. It is ok. Eventually hopefully you will be close… OR at least closer!

    themuttprincess’s last blog post..Tuesday Question of the Day on WEDNESDAY. Because I like to mix it up a bit!

  18. sam says:

    Great tribute to your brother Britt. I hope he gets to see this!!

    sam’s last blog post..This Post is Rated R for Coarse Language, Viewer Discretion is Advised

  19. Britt's Mom says:

    Hey baby the stupid piece of shit video finally uploaded but – well – see for yourself. Warning – I cry. It was late and not a good night.

    AND I went to confession.

    I think now I am going to lay on the couch and pass out.

    Love you!

    Britt’s Mom’s last blog post..Happy Birthday to My Love, My Son

  20. Great, heartfelt post, hon. Maybe this will open a door between the wall? I hope so.

    Keep us posted and you’re a good sister, not to worry.

    Coal Miner’s Granddaughter’s last blog post..Our House, In the Middle of Our Street!

  21. Shelli says:

    Hang in there. It will happen. I know.

    Shelli’s last blog post..The Kindness of Friends and Nobody

  22. Marissa says:

    This sounds like something I said about my younger brother (though it’s seven years instead of six).

    He and I have barely shared more than ten civil words with one another since Christmas of 2006.

    Does time heal the hurt?

    Marissa’s last blog post..Irony has a sense of humor after all

  23. Amy says:

    Having sibling issues myself as you know, I get this. I really do. It’s a tough spot for a big sister to be in.

    Happy Birthday Jay!

    Amy’s last blog post..Reliving My Youth…

  24. J. says:

    Just because it’s “family”, does not mean it has to be perfect.
    More times than not, it’s a mess, right?
    But you have love there, that’s apparent, and that’s the important part.
    xoxox

    (ps – great post!)

    J.’s last blog post..Green Beer Is Kinda Gross

  25. Anonymous says:

    Hey Britter. One thing I always love about reading your posts, Sis, is that they’re always real. You know, there were a lot of reasons growing up why we didn’t get along very well. hahaha. And those were all just first and second sibling reasons…rivalry…you know? At this point, Britt, I really want you to know that the distance between us has been because of the mistakes I have made. I don’t blame you at all for not wanting to feel disappointed, ok? I’ve always loved you so much, and looked up to you as much as a younger brother could look up to a girl. :) I’m thinking that when I move to Florida for school later this year, maybe we can try and bring those walls down, you know? Thank you everybody for the Happy Birthday wishes…and thanks for never giving up on me, Britter. I love you. Jay

  26. Anonymous says:

    Oh, and please, everyone. Don’t forget to wish Bruce Willis happy birthday at some point today. He’s such a badass!

  27. Creed (Baby Brother) says:

    Wow. That’s all I can say. That was amazing Britter

  28. Maggie says:

    I have this with one of my brothers. It makes me sick to think we’ll never get to that place I think we should be. But maybe it’s just a different place, you know? Maybe it’s not the loss we think it is.

    I don’t know.

    Maggie’s last blog post..Letting go.

  29. sizzle says:

    That was a beautifully written post. Happy Birthday to your brother.

  30. Hilly says:

    Happy Birthday to your brother, Britt! You are a great sister with a beautiful way for words :).

    Hilly’s last blog post..Blogger Of The Month: March’s Mad Hatter!

  31. Finn says:

    Hey, guess what? You made the opening…

  32. Fantastagirl says:

    It’s a beautiful post, and someday you’ll get your wish.

  33. Britt, that was a beautiful post, and I’m so happy that Jay got to read it. Jay, happy birthday! You’re very fortunate to have such a loving family. OK, now I’m crying too, but it’s a good kind of cry.

    Geeky Tai-Tai’s last blog post..The Simple Life — A Guest Post by An Expat

  34. Miss Britt says:

    Karl: yeah, I can imagine.

    Finn: ugh, you’re right, huh?

    tori: yeah, I’ve wonder that a lot – same home, same genes, totally different outcome. Not that that is always bad – but it’s interesting at the very least.

    DutchBitch: thanks babe.

    themuttprincess: so it’s just kinda normal then you think?

    sam: thanks sugar, and he did.

    Britt’s Mom: I saw it – and cried and cried and cried.

    CMG: thanks. I’m sure I’m a better sister when I’m not your sibling. LOL

    Shelli: :wink:

    Marissa: oh ouch. Our relationship isn’t THAT strained. Maybe you should pick up the phone too?? :heartbeat:

    Amy: :heartbeat:

    J.: that’s true, none of us are perfect in this family.

    Jay: Oh babe. Love, crying, just about everything right now.

    Creed: thanks kiddo.

    Maggie: that’s actually very wise, this “different” you talk about.

    sizzle: thank you, very much.

    Hilly: like I told someone else – I’m sure I’m a better sister when I’m not yours. LOL But thank you.

    Finn: :blush:

    Fantastagirl: fingers crossed and all that.

    Geeky Tai-Tai: thank you, I’m glad it didn’t hurt his feelings. Don’t cry!!!

  35. Oh the longing in this post…. My heart wrenched about 12 times. Loving is so difficult – and so wonderful. I’m glad you have each other to work this through. I hope that happens.

    I’m sorry about your step-dad too. I hate to think of you suffering.

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